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Blogs

David Johnson shows receiving skills

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2015 – 9:30 am

Jerraud Powers had joked about it with coach Bruce Arians on Monday — the day Chris Johnson arrived — and then repeated it again Tuesday. He was asked how Johnson’s signing would impact the young running backs, and the veteran cornerback was blunt. “They’re all back practicing.” Whether that’s truly why the hamstrings are healed can be debated, but here is one truth — rookie David Johnson has looked pretty good as a receiver out of the backfield the last couple of days.

Yes, Johnson is a running back. He still has to show he can carry the ball, and he talked Wednesday about learning a very big playbook. But while he cautioned that hamstrings can be “tricky,” Johnson has run well the past couple of practices. And catching the ball, he has looked every bit the player Bruce Arians said he’d be in that role. In drills coming out of the backfield, no one has really been able to cover him, making one think about the matchup issues Johnson can provide. Now, we wait to see what it looks like in a game.

“I’ve been waiting since January, since the draft, to prove what I’m worth,” Johnson said.

Arians likes to use his running backs as receivers, and this isn’t just about throwing swing passes to a guy — which is why it will be interesting to see how Chris Johnson adapts to the offense. Andre Ellington runs out of the slot and has shown good hands (remember, Arians has said he thinks Ellington could have been a wideout in this league) and that is something Johnson has already shown. There is no fighting the ball when it comes to him.

DavidBlog

 


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Iupati to get left knee checked UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2015 – 12:11 pm

Bruce Arians said guard Mike Iupati will miss practice today and will get further tests to check out his left knee. Pressed on what was wrong, Arians chuckled. “I’m sending him to a doctor. I don’t know,” Arians said. “He’s got a knee swelling a little bit.” We’ll see what happens, but Arians’ mood was not of a man worried that his starting left guard was going to be out for a long time, so take that for what it’s worth.

UPDATE: Adam Schefter reported Iupati was “likely” to have surgery and would miss 6 to 8 weeks. No official word is expected until Arians talks Thursday. Defensive tackle Corey Peters was also carted off with a left leg/ankle injury Wednesday afternoon.

— The rest of the injury list is much shorter than it once was. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring) remains sidelined. Cornerback Jerraud Powers (oblique) is still limited. Still out are LB Shaq Riddick (hamstring), T Rob Crisp (knee), CB Jonte Green (hamstring) and WR Michael Floyd (hand).

— Arians is also giving all the 10-year vets a day off. So no Leach, Zastudil, Palmer, Redding, Fitzgerald or Rucker today.

— Arians said there were times Chris Johnson looked explosive Tuesday, although the running back has a lot to learn in the Cards’ offense.

Weren’t we just talking about this? Arians said he didn’t see why joint practices couldn’t be held without fighting. It’s on the coaches. “There’s no place in the game for (fighting),” Arians said. “Coaches that believe it that, they need to get new jobs.”

TC13.Iupatitweet


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No reason for Cards to put up a fight

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2015 – 9:06 am

Bruce Arians mentioned early in training camp he would have liked to have a joint practice with another team in training camp, to break up the monotony and to raise the level of practice that inevitably comes with going against another team rather than teammates. Given how averse Arians is to training camp fights, however, maybe it’s good that the Cardinals never did work that out.

The Rams-Cowboys joint practice donnybrook Tuesday was just the latest in joint practice battles. The Redskins and Texans got into it earlier this month and last training camp, it was the Cowboys and Raiders. The two this month were bad enough that the joint practices were called off and the teams went to practice on separate fields.

It would be interesting to see what Arians would do if his players got into a training camp tussle with another team. He’s made no bones about it happening with his own team — last summer’s Darnell Dockett/Bradley Sowell laps and then a separate abrupt end to practice underscored the head coach’s feelings on the subject. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree either. Todd Bowles made the Jets run because of a practice fight recently.)

And while there are plenty that feel there is good that can come out of a camp scrap — ask Ron Wolfley — there is tangible evidence the downside is too great. The Cardinals know about injuries. Back in 2003, guard Leonard Davis broke his hand punching defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. (Amazingly, my story at the time is still floating around on the internet.) That’s never good.

Bruce Arians


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The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein. Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.

RunningBacksShot

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Honey Badger — again! — with “Knee Deep,” Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2015 – 5:29 pm

Tyrann Mathieu had another interception today. I still say Carson Palmer is the story of camp, given how good he looks coming off the ACL injury, including his arm strength. But Mathieu is right up there. It’s easy for players to talk big in training camp, about how ready they are to have a big season. But when the Honey Badger says it, it’s been tangibly backed up by what he’s done on the field. His game is to be all over the place and make things happen for the defense, and that’s exactly what Mathieu is doing.

— I know someone will ask. It was Drew Stanton who threw the pick. Stanton had a couple of nice TD passes later.

— D.J. Humphries was hoping to keep that “Knee Deep” nickname in-house, but Bruce Arians let it out of the bag. “I didn’t think that was going to make it to the media,” Humphries said. “I’ve been called that since OTAs.”

Is it valid? “Uhhhhh …. you’ll have to ask them about that,” Humphries said. “I hear it a lot, so I guess it is.”

Humphries said he feels no pain in his knee. He admits he can tell he missed some time, but not so much that he’s behind.

— Running back Andre Ellington got in some 11-on-11 work. While still limited, he did look impressively quick on one screen pass, the first real hint of what the Cardinals will have once he gets fully back on the field. Ellington said he’d play Saturday, but that’s still up in the air. Methinks the Cards will want to do everything in their power to make sure he reaches Sept. 13 healthy.

TyPickBLOG


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Cardinals looking at Chris Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2015 – 8:53 am

Monday, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals would look to add a running back. Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that the Cardinals had offered a one-year contract to veteran Chris Johnson and that Johnson is mulling the opportunity. The Cardinals aren’t the only team out there openly looking for a running back; the Texans would like to add one after Arian Foster’s sports hernia surgery. One hitch, reportedly, is that Johnson isn’t sure he would make the team with the Cardinals. To me, it’s a fair concern. If Andre Ellington is healthy, he’s your top guy, and as frustrating as it is not to have third-round draft pick David Johnson at this point — he remains out with a hamstring injury and Arians said he could miss another week – when those guys are healthy, it would get awfully crowded in that backfield.

But this is about putting the best team together (as Arians talked about last week about the business of Lyle Sendlein) and a chance to add a vet who could help makes sense for the Cards right now. Ellington is just now getting back to practice. Johnson provides speed in the backfield, and while he didn’t reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season with the Jets, he still averaged a healthy 4.3 yards a carry. It’s a waiting game now. The Cards make their free agent play. Many times it works, but other times, a player will pass (remember Brett Keisel this time last year? The Cards still ended up with Tommy Kelly.)


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The first depth chart of 2015

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2015 – 1:20 pm

The Cardinals released the first depth chart of the 2015 season, with their first preseason game coming Saturday night. As noted at the very top of the chart in the team’s press release, the chart is compiled by the media relations staff. It’s a useful tool, but it isn’t the end-all be-all in terms of what the Cardinals are doing on the field. Reading too much into it can be a mistake.

For instance, Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu are listed as the starting safeties, while in practice it is Deone Bucannon and Rashad Johnson who have been running with the first unit. In the end, all four get a lot of snaps. Ifeanyi Momah is running first unit at tight end and has earned it — but will he stay there when Jermaine Gresham gets back into football shape? And with so many quality defensive linemen, it probably shouldn’t matter right now that, for instance, Matt Shaughnessy is running third team because that will all be sorted out as preseason games go by. Rodney Gunter is fourth-team in the deep unit — but barring something crazy, he’s going to be on this roster.

That being said, here’s a look at the depth chart:

depthUSE


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Red-White aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 5:48 pm

There was a pretty big crowd for Saturday’s Red-White practice, to wrap up the first week of training camp. The crowd was announced at 23,750, the largest crowd the Cards have gotten on this Saturday practice — which has always been the biggest draw of camp. They got to see the first live goalline work, and a few nice throws by Carson Palmer.

It wasn’t all good. The Cards lost cornerback Jerraud Powers early in the practice and cornerback Darren Woodard later. Woodard went down with a non-contact injury, although he did walk off in a manner that maybe it was a groin or hamstring more than a knee. There won’t be any injury updates before Monday — the Cardinals get Sunday off.

As for the football, some things I noticed:

— Palmer looked sharp yet again. He found J.J. Nelson on a nice out pattern early, putting the ball in a perfect place, and Nelson may have made and even better catch. Later, Palmer hit Jaron Brown with a bomb of 45 or so yards, beating Patrick Peterson over the top. With Michael Floyd out and Larry Fitzgerald limited, Nelson and Brown getting a real chance to shine. They are doing a pretty good job of it.

— Kerwynn Williams, who had a tough practice Friday with a couple of fumbles, had a pair of tough moments again Saturday. He dropped a pass when he was wide open on third down, and that’s an area Bruce Arians said Williams needs to improve to get on the field. Later, Williams took a shot in that place that a guy would rather not get hit, and he had to come out for a few plays while he recovered.

— In the goal line drill, the defense looked stout. With the ball at the 1, the first-unit kept Williams out of the end zone on two of three plays. Ed Stinson blew up Jonathan Cooper on one play so Kevin Minter could make the tackle for loss. Williams did score going over the right side on the final play, helped by a pulling Mike Iupati. On the second unit, Paul Lasike was deemed just barely in the end zone on the first play, but he couldn’t break the goal line in the next two, Paul Lasike was stopped short in all three tries, although just short of the goal line. (On the first play, the official on my side of the field called touchdown, but watching the video it was clear he was just short, just like the official on the opposite side called.

— The defense won the “live scrimmage” of the third units to end the practice. Linebacker Edwin Jackson, whom Arians had just praised at lunchtime, slammed into Lasike for a big tackle that was probably the highlight of the practice. Then the practice ended when tight end Gerald Christian made a catch but fumbled when linebacker Alani Fua drilled Christian and the ball, and the defense recovered.

It’s been a long week. Time for a day off.

TC7FuaFFChrisianBLOG


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The benefit of the camp walkthroughs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 10:09 am

Bruce Arians has never made it much secret — crystallized with his “Camp Cupcake” line — that he would prefer to have a couple of practices a day, instead of the one lengthy one and a walkthrough in the morning, as mandated by the CBA. But there is one big benefit of the walkthrough. Injured players can take part.

Arians pointed out that he wasn’t that concerned with the time missed by veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, because Weatherspoon is able to go through all the plays on defense every day. The same goes for running backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson, who can learn the playbook even though they aren’t stressing their problem hamstrings. The walkthroughs are a big reason the Cards had no problem activating tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas from their respective lists even though they aren’t quite ready to participate much in practice. On the list, no walkthrough. Activated from the list and those guys can do just as intended — walk through the plays.

Ellington, for instance, is still the first-string running back on some plays in walkthrough. It’s not perfect. Guys still have to play football to get better at football — Arians pointed out he still needs to see Johnson in pads, for instance — but knowing that injured players aren’t completely shut out is important to Arians and his coaches.

GreshBlogUSE


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Injuries don’t make Arians flinch

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2015 – 1:22 pm

The Cardinals still have 75 or so players able to practice today, so with 13 players now sitting out, Bruce Arians isn’t worried about making practice go. He’s also not worried about any of the current guys being out long-term, saying that a “couple” of the injuries could stretch to two weeks but most he’d suspect are week-long issues. Now, it’s hard to tell with a hamstring, and the Cardinals now have six of those guys, including running back Marion Grice, who joins Andre Ellington and David Johnson at that position with hamstring issues. But again, no panic from the coach.

There was good news on tackle D.J. Humphries, who hyperextended his knee apparently after tripping on the turf of the lower field. He could be out up to a week, Arians said, but it might only be a couple of days. The offensive line lost three players yesterday, with tackle Rob Crisp (knee) and Earl Watford (ankle) also going down.

If you are counting, that’s six of the players. Linebacker is down four, with Zack Wagenmann (foot) joining Shaq Riddick (hammie), Sean Weatherspoon (hammie) and Daryl Sharpton (hip flexor) on the sideline. Three tight ends in Troy Niklas (hammie), Jermaine Gresham (back) and Ted Bolser (knee). That makes 13.

But as Arians said, “one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity.” Three tight ends out means an opening for Ifeanyi Momah, who has looked excellent catching the ball since he signed and now has showed he should be able to block a little bit.

“He was one hell of a player in FIFA,” Arians said, with his reference to the “soccer” playing the Cards do in the offseason. “He was an all-star FIFA player. Now he’s a pretty good football player.”


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